Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

100% Renewable Electricity to Power the World by 2050? It's Happening, Study Says

Renewable Energy
100% Renewable Electricity to Power the World by 2050? It's Happening, Study Says
Windorah's Solar Farm dishes taken from the roadside (Diamantina Developmental Road) on a hot summer day. Aaronazz / Wikimedia Commons

By Alex Kirby

If you think a world powered by 100 percent renewable electricity—and significantly cheaper than today's—is an impossible dream, there's a surprise in store for you. A new study says it's already in the making.

A global transition to 100 percent renewable electricity, far from being a long-term vision, is happening now, the study says. It is the work of Finland's Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) and the Energy Watch Group (EWG), and was published at the UN climate change conference, COP23, which is meeting here.


The authors say a global electricity system based entirely on renewable energy will soon be feasible day in, day out, at every moment throughout the year, and would be more cost-effective than the existing system, based largely on fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

Current renewable energy potential and technologies, crucially including storage to guarantee a constant power supply, can generate sufficient secure power to meet the entire world's electricity demand by 2050, they argue. With political backing it could happen even sooner.

The total levelized cost of electricity—roughly, the average cost—for 100 percent renewable electricity in 2050 would be €52/MWh (approximately $68/MWh), compared with €70/MWh (approximately $92/MWh) in 2015.

There is no silver bullet in their approach. Their model—the first of its kind, they say—simply simulates the most efficient energy supply with an optimal mix of technologies and locally available renewable resources.

A transition to 100 percent renewables would bring greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector down to zero and drastically reduce total losses in power generation. It would create 36 million jobs by 2050, the study says, 17 million more than the sector has today.

Cost saving

"There is no reason to invest one more dollar in fossil fuel or nuclear power production," said EWG president Hans-Josef Fell. "Renewable energy provides cost-effective power supply.

"All plans for further expansion of coal, nuclear, gas and oil must be stopped. More investment needs to be channelled into renewable energies and the necessary infrastructure . Everything else will lead to unnecessary costs and increasing global warming."

"A full decarbonization of the electricity system by 2050 is possible for lower system cost than today, based on available technology. Energy transition is no longer a question of technical feasibility or economic viability, but of political will," said Christian Breyer, lead author of the study and professor of solar economy at LUT.

His last point has been made many times already. Nearly five years ago researchers said Australia could by 2023 rely entirely on renewable energy—if it could summon up enough political will.

In 2014 another study said it was only a lack of political determination that was preventing the world switching away from fossil fuels altogether. And earlier this year, in one of his last presidential statements, Barack Obama said he believed the U.S. was engaged in an "irreversible shift" to clean energy.

Losses cut

The world population is expected to grow from 7.3 to 9.7 billion people this century. Global electricity demand is likely to double by mid-century, from 24,310 TWh in 2015 to around 48,800 TWh by 2050. Because of their rapidly falling costs, solar photovoltaic (PV) power and battery storage increasingly drive most of the electricity system.

Global greenhouse gas emissions would be significantly reduced, the study says, from about 11 GtCO2eq in 2015 to zero emissions by 2050 or earlier, as the total LCOE of the power system declines.

The losses in a 100 percent renewable electricity system are around 26 percent of total electricity demand, compared with the current system in which about 58 percent of the primary energy input is lost.

The study is a challenge for policymakers and politicians, the authors say, as it refutes an argument frequently used by critics of renewable fuels—that they cannot provide a full energy supply on an uninterruptible basis.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.

A seagull flies in front of the Rampion offshore wind farm in the United Kingdom. Neil / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

A key part of the United States' clean energy transition has started to take shape, but you may need to squint to see it. About 2,000 wind turbines could be built far offshore, in federal waters off the Atlantic Coast, in the next 10 years. And more are expected.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Frank La Sorte and Kyle Horton

Millions of birds travel between their breeding and wintering grounds during spring and autumn migration, creating one of the greatest spectacles of the natural world. These journeys often span incredible distances. For example, the Blackpoll warbler, which weighs less than half an ounce, may travel up to 1,500 miles between its nesting grounds in Canada and its wintering grounds in the Caribbean and South America.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Kevin Maillefer / Unsplash

By Lynne Peeples

Editor's note: This story is part of a nine-month investigation of drinking water contamination across the U.S. The series is supported by funding from the Park Foundation and Water Foundation. Read the launch story, "Thirsting for Solutions," here.

In late September 2020, officials in Wrangell, Alaska, warned residents who were elderly, pregnant or had health problems to avoid drinking the city's tap water — unless they could filter it on their own.

Read More Show Less
Eat Just's cell-based chicken nugget is now served at Singapore restaurant 1880. Eat Just, Inc.

At a time of impending global food scarcity, cell-based meats and seafood have been heralded as the future of food.

Read More Show Less
New Zealand sea lions are an endangered species and one of the rarest species of sea lions in the world. Art Wolfe / Photodisc / Getty Images

One city in New Zealand knows what its priorities are.

Dunedin, the second largest city on New Zealand's South Island, has closed a popular road to protect a mother sea lion and her pup, The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less